Re: [OPE-L] Albritton on Marx's value theory and subjectivity

From: glevy@PRATT.EDU
Date: Wed Apr 12 2006 - 13:40:01 EDT

> It is one thing to say, that trade in commodities becomes a means of
> accumulating capital, and is therefore engaged in not simply for its own
> sake, or for the joy of it etc. Or, that an investor simply looks for
> those stocks or placements which yield the highest return, irrespective
> of whether they concern cabbages, water pipes, currencies or computers
> etc. I.e., an abstract instrumentalist rationality operates.
> But this does not imply at all, that "capitalists are indifferent to the
> use value of products" or that they do not try to meet consumer needs.


Following Albritton, I think we have to be clear about whether we are
talking about 'basic theory' of 'stage' analysis.  To the extent that the
latter (contemporary capitalism) is being discussed, then I think two
items should be highlighted:

1) as you know, large corporations typically produce commodities for
a multitude of markets.  A reason for this diversification, which is
apparant from the organizational complexity of those corporations in
the form of subsidiaries, is to spread out corporate risk and hence
make their individual profit less tied to what happens in any
individual market.  Here the emphasis in choosing how to diversify is
clearly not on use-value --although it certainly enters the picture and
can be ignored by corporations only at their peril (yet there is
_less_ peril now for them in the sense referred to here).

2) where there are oligopolistic markets, oligopolies can produce
commodities even where there in no demand for a product: i.e. they
can make a decision to produce a commodity and then use advertising and
marketing to create a demand.  This implies a different relation
between firms and consumers than that found in more competitive

So, the questions that I think should be asked are:
-- how has the importance of use-value changed historically under
      capitalism?; and
-- what is its conjunctural importance in a period where oligopolies
      domimate most markets in the advanced capitalist nations?

In solidarity, Jerry

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